Respected Human Rights Group: 85% of Palestinians Killed in Gaza are Civilians

Jennifer Loewenstein
Beirut, Hamra
January 10, 2009, 2:30am

Here are some newsworthy items out of Gaza that are unlikely to be making it to the Western presses. I received this information directly from one of the staff of the Mezan Center for Human Rights about twenty minutes ago.

1. Israel has begun a new policy in Gaza in the past two days called the "roof knock". This is when a "small" rocket is fired from Israeli military aircraft that is strong enough to blast open the roof of a targeted building. It is sent as a "warning message" to the building's inhabitants giving them between 2 and 3 minutes to evacuate before the building is completely destroyed. A number of cases of this new technique have been reported recently.

2. While the UN continues to claim that "only" 25% of the casualties from the attacks on Gaza are civilian, the Mezan Center for Human Rights (known for the care it takes not to overstate the numbers and for its strict verification policies) estimates that the number of civilian casualties is approximately 85%. In particular, the number of children has increased to over 200, and the number of women has surpassed 75. One reason for the lower civilian casualty figures used by the UN has to do with the reluctance to consider men -other than the elderly and sick- as non-combatants. In fact the overwhelming majority of men killed in "Operation Cast Lead" up to now have been non-combatants, including fathers, teachers, shopkeepers, construction workers, laborers, students, as well as the civil policemen. The vast majority are not "Hamas militants." Note that the civil police are considered 'non-combatants' under international law and are therefore not 'legitimate' targets in any military confrontation any more than traffic cops or firemen.

3. The UN announced this evening that "almost everyone in the Gaza Strip" is now in need of humanitarian aid. Indeed, even those with adequate food supplies are a) handing out what they have to people in "shelters" (which have been targeted consistently by Israeli war machines in the past); Even those with adequate food supplies are b) unable to obtain bread anywhere. Many are using rice or spaghetti to substitute for carbohydrates -- when these are availabe and when there is water and electricity to allow for cooking these items.

4. There are widespread reports now of forced evacuations of entire neighborhoods of people who go mainly to nearby schools or other public buildings not yet destroyed. These are considered no more secure than their homes but remain the only other places to go (other than to move into crowded dwellings with relatives; or places no more secure than their own homes). The congregation of so many people in these enclosed spaces increases the likelihood of major civilian casualties when airstrikes target the area.

PLEASE PROTEST THESE AND OTHER ACTIONS OF THE UNITED STATES AND ISRAEL, TWO COUNTRIES THAT CLAIM THE WHOLESALE DESTRUCTION OF A PEOPLE IS A MATTER OF 'SELF DEFENSE'.

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Videos & Multimedia

British TV Documentary – Dispatches: The Killing Zone

VIDEO: Palestinians Document Settler Violence

VIDEO: West Bank attack filmed

Video – Gaza: A humanitarian implosion

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Video – The Easiest Targets: The Israeli Policy of Strip Searching Women and Children

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Additional Resources

Documentary – Jenin Jenin

Amnesty International – Shielded From Scrutiny: IDF Violations in Jenin and Nablus

Report – The Jenin Inquiry

The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

Back to a Routine of Torture – Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees during Arrest, Detention and Interrogation – September 2001 - April 2003

Amnesty International – Israeli Settlers Wage Campaign of Intimidation

Booklet – ‘No Exit’

Amnesty International – Under the Rubble

Organizations

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel


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